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    Breaking stereotypes in Ugandan agriculture

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  • UNESCO to train French-speaking African broadcasters on gender equality in the media

    Speakers will include representatives of partners such as International Organization of La Francophonie, African Union of Broadcasting, Morocco’s High Authority for Audiovisual Communication, UN Women, and Host Broadcast Services.

    Through this event, the Organization seeks to strengthen media pluralism and the adoption of gender-sensitive policies in African broadcasting organizations.

    Despite the strong involvement of women in the socio-economic and political changes in Africa, their status in the media remains a matter of concern – low visibility, little or no presence at decision-making levels, stereotypical representations, etc.

    Participants will be asked to develop action plans for their organization through the lens of different indicators – working conditions, editorial policies, media content, etc.

    Supporting and raising awareness among media structures is of particular importance to ensure audience and content diversity, balanced gender portrayals, as well as equal employment opportunities.

    This training is one of many initiatives led by UNESCO in favour of gender equality, such as initiating the Global Alliance on Gender and Media, which builds part of its work on the Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media.

    This event also fits in the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 5 (“Gender Equality”) and Goal 16.10 (“Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms”).

    For more information on the programme and participants, please visit (in French only): https://fr.unesco.org/formation-application-indicateurs-egalite-genres-medias.

    Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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  • Commemoration of Africa Human Rights Day

    Today, the African People commemorate the Africa Human Rights Day across the continent under the theme “Women Rights – Our Collective Responsibility”.

    On this occasion, H.E. Dr. Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, Commissioner for Political Affairs issued a statement on behalf of H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission describing this year’s theme as timely and appropriate. Timely in the sense that it coincides with the Declaration of the African Union’s Heads of State and Government of “2016 as the African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women”. It is, therefore, a clarion call on Africa to do more to promote women’s rights, particularly the rights to development. It is in this context that the African Union Commission has concluded that the AHRD theme for this year is a reflection of a ray of hope that through empowerment of women in Africa, sustainable peace and development will be ushered in.

    The Commissioner for Political Affairs stated that on 21 October 1986, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights came into force thereby forming the basis for the commemoration of the Africa Human Rights Day (AHRD). The AHRD, which is celebrated annually across the continent on 21st October, is an opportunity to reflect, take stock and recommit to the solemn declaration undertaken by the African leaders and the African people to promote and safeguard human and peoples’ rights on the continent. She further added that the commemoration is also to continuously awaken greater awareness of the African peoples and the international community on the value of life and humanity, and to renew our collective commitment to protect and uphold the fundamental human rights.

    Dr. Abdulahi also indicated that despite all the efforts to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in Africa, including women’s rights, the continent continues to face enormous challenges which if not urgently and adequately addressed, may erase the human rights gain recorded over the preceding decades. These challenges include, but are not limited to: inadequate allocation of resources to human rights institutions, inadequate capacity, insufficient political will, unwillingness by some States to cede part of sovereignty to supranational monitoring bodies, insufficient commitment by some States to domesticate and implement international and continental human rights treaties, persistent crisis and conflicts across the continent which result in loss of life, destruction of property and reversal of human rights gains, widespread poverty, ignorance and lack of awareness, vestiges of colonialism characterized by human rights unfriendly laws, bad  governance, corruption and disregard for the constitutionalism and the rule of law.

    In conclusion, Dr. Abdullahi also added that in order to ensure that elements of the theme of this year have been achieved, the DPA in close collaboration and coordination with other AU Organs with a human rights mandate, has been carrying out a series of activities commencing in 2016 and spread across the next 10 years, which was declared by Heads of State and Government in Kigali, Rwanda in July this year as the “Human and Peoples’ Rights Decade in Africa”. These activities seek to initiate a lobby and advocacy campaign that generates increasing momentum, and reaches out to member states stakeholders and partners at all levels.       

    Distributed by APO on behalf of African Union Commission (AUC).

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  • West Africa: MSF closes final Ebola projects for survivors

    The Ebola outbreak that swept across West Africa infected more than 28,700 people and killed more than 11,300 men, women and children. Whole families were ripped apart and communities were devastated by the disease, which saw schools close, economies grind to a halt and health systems collapse, leading to even greater loss of life. The shocking human toll of the outbreak was exacerbated by the painfully slow international response.

    “The suffering caused by the Ebola outbreak was immeasurable,” says Brice De La Vingne, operations director for MSF. “It has left an indelible mark on every MSF staff member who travelled to work in West Africa. For our staff from the region, the impact was even greater – they were living with the daily threat of the disease, while at work they faced the devastating reality of Ebola head on. But for those who were infected with the disease, and for their families, it was nothing short of hell.”

    Those who survived Ebola often found the battle was not over – many faced significant medical and mental health problems. However, because there had never before been an outbreak of this magnitude, there was limited understanding of what assistance people would need to pick up the pieces.

    “As the outbreak subsided, it became apparent that Ebola survivors and their families would need significant support,” says Petra Becker, MSF head of mission in Liberia. “The majority of survivors experienced physical disorders such as joint pain and neurological or ophthalmological problems. At the same time, many survivors, as well as their friends, family and caregivers, experienced significant mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, after being confronted so closely with death.”

    MSF set up dedicated survivors’ clinics in the three worst affected countries. The first opened in Monrovia, Liberia, in January 2015 and provided more than 1,500 medical consultations before closing in August 2016. A second clinic in Guinea, Conakry, cared for 330 survivors and more than 350 of their relatives in the Coyah and Forécariah districts of the city. A similar clinic in Freetown, Sierra Leone, provided mental and medical healthcare to more than 400 survivors and their families, organising more than 450 individual and group sessions to provide psychological support.

    “Over time and after treatment, the severity of people’s psychological and physical disorders has gradually diminished,” says Jacob Maikere, MSF head of mission in Sierra Leone. “Yet many survivors say that they are still deeply disturbed by the smell of chlorine, which immediately transports them back the horror of the Ebola management centres.”

    Fight against discrimination and stigma

    Ebola survivors and their families also faced stigma when they returned to their communities.

    MSF, together with other organisations and alongside national initiatives, sent teams out into affected communities to spread health messages and to help reduce stigma and discrimination. In Guinea, for example, MSF reached 18,300 people through group and individual sessions.

    “Stigma remains a huge issue for those who survived Ebola and for their families, despite awareness and information campaigns during and after the outbreak,” says Jacob Maikere. “The discrimination takes many forms, with people losing their jobs or their partners, or being rejected by their family or community, all of which can have a hugely destabilising impact on their lives.”

    Health workers hard hit

    Health workers in the three worst affected countries paid a heavy price for responding to the disease, with many losing their lives. Those who survived witnessed countless deaths, and had to live with the fear that they too would be infected in their own communities as Ebola spread.

    “Health workers in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia saved many of their fellow citizens from Ebola,” says Ibrahim Diallo, MSF head of mission in Guinea. “But the virus created such fear in the country that many were viewed with suspicion or even discriminated against because of the contact that they had with people who were sick.”

    MSF handing over post-Ebola care

    In late-September, MSF ended its medical and mental health programmes for survivors in Guinea and Sierra Leone, while in Liberia, post-Ebola activities will finish before the end of the year. Most medical conditions affecting survivors, such as eye and joint problems, have now been treated, and MSF has arranged for those who need ongoing mental health support to receive continuing care within their national health systems or from other organisations.

    Continued MSF care in West Africa

    MSF will continue its efforts to provide services focusing on the unmet health needs of vulnerable people throughout the three affected countries.   

    “Any strengthening of health services in the three affected countries must include improving infection control measures, surveillance systems to ensure early monitoring of potential cases, and basic contingency plans allowing for a quick response to an outbreak of Ebola or other diseases,” says Mit Philips, health policy advisor for MSF. “The countries also need catch-up plans for services that lapsed during the epidemic, such as treatment for HIV and TB, as well as preventative services for which coverage remains low.”

    In Monrovia, MSF has opened a paediatric hospital, Bardnesville Junction Hospital. Between January and August 2016, the hospital provided more than 3,280 emergency consultations and admitted 880 children as inpatients, mainly for malaria. The hospital’s neonatal unit has cared for 512 newborn babies.

    MSF is also continuing to provide care to HIV patients in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, and maternity care in the Tonkolili and Koinadugu districts in Sierra Leone. The organisation has also positioned emergency supplies in the region to make sure that medical teams can respond quickly to a future outbreak of Ebola or to other epidemic threats.

    Distributed by APO on behalf of Médecins sans frontières (MSF).

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    Médecins sans frontières (MSF)
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